On Monday, Comptroller Glenn Hegar released the 2020-2021 Biennial Revenue Estimate, projecting $119.2 billion available for the state to use for general purpose spending.
This amount represents an increase of 8.1 percent from the previous biennium, in which the state had $110 billion in revenue.
Still, Hegar warned lawmakers against any spending sprees during the upcoming legislative session, saying, “Despite this projected revenue growth, the Legislature will again face some difficult choices in balancing the budget.”
“The most pressing and costly budget drivers for the upcoming session include a potentially large boost in education spending to reduce the property tax burden and reform school finance,” he added.
Hegar also noted that, due to “heightened uncertainty” caused by a recent drop in oil prices, his estimate was based on “continued but slowing” economic expansion.
Shortly after the announcement, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he was pleased by the increase in projected revenue despite fluctuations in the oil and gas industry and that the estimate matched his expectations.
“We face a broad range of fiscal challenges in the 86th legislative session and we are committed to property tax reform, increasing teacher pay and school finance reform,” said Patrick in a statement. “We are confident we can accomplish these goals.”
Gov. Greg Abbott echoed Patrick’s statement, saying, “Texans expect their government to live within its means while funding its priorities. I look forward to working with the legislature to fulfill these expectations by addressing many key issues, including school finance reform and limiting the growth of property taxes.”
Hegar also announced his projection that the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, known commonly as the “Rainy Day Fund,” would grow to $15 billion from $12.5 billion during the current biennium.
Of course, that assumes lawmakers don’t tap the fund in order to pay for things like Medicaid expansion (a longtime goal of Democrats) or property tax relief.
As lawmakers prepare to assemble a balanced budget for the next two years, the only bill they are constitutionally required to pass, priorities will be key. Will they choose to use the revenue available to help provide meaningful property tax relief and school finance reform, or will they spend it on additional frivolous programs?
The legislature will convene for the first day of its 140-day session on Tuesday.